Having a cat in class before COVID-19 was unheard of. Now, it’s almost expected to see at least one person’s fuzzy study buddy in a day full of Zoom classes.
Whether it be a professor telling a story of the crazy antics their dog got into the night before or a student’s cat lying down on the keyboard and thus kicking them out of the meeting, the appearance of a pet tends to add a touch of humanity to the online set-up.
Sophomore Sara Meehan is a “cat person,” and her animal family has grown since quarantine began. Her kitten, Sebastian, has proven to be a source of comfort during stressful times.
“I got a rescue cat three weeks ago,” Meehan said. “It's been nice, mental health-wise, to have something positive like this happen, because my family has been taking quarantine really seriously. It's been hard being in house all the time and he's just made it a lot more exciting.”
Sara Garzia, a second-year master’s student in the School of Public Health, has two cats that add to her daily routine, for better or for worse.
“I'd like to say I make time to play with them every day, but I haven't done that quite yet,” Garzia said. “But to give them some attention, I'll do homework on the couch because I know they'd like to come sit or nap on the couch with me.”
Junior Jenny Deview, on the other hand, has found life in quarantine easier when it comes to caring for multiple animals.
“During quarantine I got the chance to figure out fitting in as much time as I can for cleaning,” Deview said. “I have two ferrets, and their cage needs to be cleaned every other day. I have a hedgehog, whose litter box needs to be done every two days or so, and then the three cats are every day.”
Joe Czabovsky, an assistant professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, understands the value of having a pet at home, given the current conditions of the world. His dog, Bert, tends to make an appearance in his classes — be it through a sighting or a bark.
“I always enjoy seeing other people's pets, kids, parents or family members in the background, and in some ways that's been my glass half full,” Czabovsky said. “It's always nice to see that people have something around them that they love, and I hope what anybody has around them, whether it's a friend or a pet or family right now, has just been a nice way for them to get through.”
Pet adoptions in Orange County have increased since the start of quarantine, and Tenille Fox, the communications specialist at Orange County Animal Services, strongly encourages adoption.
As an essential business, the shelter remained open during the pandemic. They currently run virtual meet-and-greets for people to get to know pets.
“But I encourage everyone to consider what will happen if your schedule does change — especially for young puppies with separation anxiety — to work on training," Fox said. "Plan ahead for when you are not home as much.”
Czabovsky realized that even with all the work of caring for dogs, the reward truly pays off.
“If I can scoop (the dogs) up and bring them into class, I'll show them to everybody just for a brief sighting,” he said. “But even if you hear Bert’s bark, it's always a nice interlude of a, ‘Life is going on all around us and I hope everybody's doing okay,’ kind of thing.”
University staffer Emma Nip contributed reporting.
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